Mushroom looking like a seaweed, Lichen is a vegetal whose diversity species makes him, a plant with virtues countless.
This plant grows in unlikely places where very little or no plants develop. The Lichen vegetates, forming large schools on the sidewalks, in the spaces open, on the rocks granite from sea side, the trunks of trees, at the top of mountains (mainly in northern regions), but also, on the cooled lava.
Today we list 20,000 species of lichens across the world and more specifically in mountainous forests and cold regions.
Bearded, flattened, black, oranges or yellow, the lichens manage to form debris in the soil which makes it fertile, thus growing other plants, including foam.
They can be harvested throughout the year, dried before eating (with care) or used for healing.
In short, lichens are known for their therapeutic virtues and gastronomic. More so, lichens have an impact on ecology but, also serve in thetextile industry and agrifood. What exactly is it?
Here's what you need to know ...
Lichens: for the record
According to the writings of Theophrastus (Book III of his History of Plants) dated to the 3rd century BC, lichen arises from the bark. Until the middle of the 19th century, naturalists referred to as "earth droppings", soil lichens and, in general, listed them either in the category of algae, or in that of foams.
But it was not until 1867 that Simon Schwendener (Swiss botanist) observed that these plants not only have a dual nature, but are also parasites.
Many lichenologists disagreed with this theory, agreeing that "all living organisms are autonomous"!
Inspired by principle of symbiosis, scientists (including Albert Bernhard Frank or Anton de Bary) who were not totally opposed to Simon Schwendener's hypothesis, proposed in 1875 the term "symbiotism" in order to get everyone to agree.
It was therefore not until the nineteenth century that lichens were in the "phylum of Fungi" to explain that these fungi associated with algae are the only ones to ensure sexual reproduction.
Lichens: a brief overview
By its etymological definition, the word lichen comes from Latin, which itself is derived from the word Greek « leikhên Which means "lick Because of the way these plants cling to the trees or rocks they grow on.
Still called "pioneer plants "Because they promote the development of other living things, lichenized fungi grow in very arid and often hostile environments. They are also called "compound organisms Because, resulting from an association between microscopic green algae cells and 90% heterotrophic fungus.
These plants are a real asset to theecological balance since as they rot, they gradually create a less dry environment and thus promote the growth of other more demanding plants.
Besides the ecological aspect, what are benefits for the health of man?
Species, benefits and virtues of lichen
> In gastronomy
In British Columbia, cooked, bear hair lichens (Bryoria fremontii) were mixed with other ingredients including deer fat, Saskatoon berries, bulbs of the lily of a species of erythrone and those of the tiger lily to prepare a pudding.
Among certain French explorers and among the Jesuits, the consumption of the "Hudson's Bay Cree", "Hurons", "Naskapi" and "Inuit" was well controlled. They would wash them, break them up into tiny pieces and then add them to the broths and to soups with either caribou blood, fish eggs or even fish, quite simply.
It should be noted, however, that lichens are nowadays consumed less and less even if, once properly cleaned and washed to remove bitterness, they are used to make a flavored jelly at chocolate, the fresh vegetables or even Juice.
Some Nordic peoples use the Iceland moss in the kitchen, in the form of flour to make cakes or bread.
Others varieties including Umbilicaria or rock tripe, are eaten in Canada.
On the Asian continent, more particularly in the land of the Rising Sun, "Umbilicaria esculenta" is appreciated in donuts (tenpura), in soup or in salad called "rock bamboo" or "Iwatake".
It also exists others species serving asthickening and emulsifier in L'food industry.
Good to know :
Generally, lichens are difficult to digest and, some were even cooked for 24 hours.
Some species of lichens can be toxic due to the presence in their tissues of usneic or vulpinic acid.
> In medicine
What are the therapeutic virtues lichens?
Various species of lichens were used in traditional medicine by the ancient Egyptians. Over time, these uses have disappeared, under the yoke of modern medicine.
In the 20th century, only the Iceland moss still called Cetraria islandica appeared in the medical matters.
However, there are other cash whose therapeutic virtues are also to know.
With its bitter principle removed, Icelandic moss is used to soothe or treat night sweats, the gastric disturbances, the vomiting caused by pregnancy, vomiting migraine, anemia but above all, the general fatigue. True febrifuge, anti-mosquito, antianemic, stomachic and tonic (because it stimulates the central nervous system), this plant has no secrets for modern medicine.
The convincing results of its therapeutic efficacy are listed, more particularly in patients with elderly and the asthenic suffering from catarrh bronchial with recurrent irritation.
It will even be noted that in Europe, especially in Germany, lozenges against the cough sold in pharmacy are very often based on Iceland moss.
Even more, Icelandic moss is indicated to relieve chronic diseases of intestines, the pulmonary tuberculosis, the irritations of the throat, the dyspepsia and the diarrhea in children (in case of weaning).
In addition to this species of lichens, others have medicinal properties including:
- the oak lungwort, also called "crapaudine" (Lobaria pulmonaria). It was indicated to treat lung diseases.
- the wall lichen (or Parmelia parietina) whose properties are identical to those of quinine.
- the reindeer lichen or caribou moss (Cladina rangiferina),
- lichen (Buella canescens) whose principle antibiotic would heal her tuberculosis by inhibiting the development of Koch's bacillus.
- and finally, various weeds (Usnea spp.) Whose interlaced lichen (Usnea plicata) or theusnea of the human skull who would be recommended to treat epilepsy.
Good to know about:
Researchers recently discovered that, bitter acids of lichens (not being consumed) contained antibacterial properties to fight against intestinal infections.
As for thegrass to lungs for example, she used to treat respiratory infections, but now modern medicine has proven its effectiveness in a syrup against the cough.
> In cosmetics / perfumery
Lichens are often used in the creation industry perfume.
Indeed, it is possible to harvest up to 9000 tons of lichen per year to extract essential oils of perfume.
This plant can produce woody scents with suspicion seaweed and of mushrooms.
To do this, 2 varieties of lichens collected from trees or the ground are particularly appreciated. These are Oak moss (Evernia prunastri) and tree moss (Pseudevernia furfuracea).
> In the textile industry
For centuries, these multiple plants have been used for vegetable dye.
Usually, the pigments in lichens are more complex to extract. However, they resist water and light better.
Note that in the textile industry, it is lichen pigments that are used to color scottish tweeds and Irish.
Uses and dosages of lichen
Here are some practical tips / tricks for benefit of benefits of lichens :
- To preserve the bitter principle lichens, it is advisable not to bring them to a boil. For this, a maceration (20 g of lichen per liter of water) toCold water or a infusion hot water is sufficient.
- To prepare a decoction, bring the indicated amount of water to a boil. Put the lichens there. Then throw in the water and wash them in cold water.
After washing, bring 1.5 L of water to the boil again. Plunge the lichens back into this boiling water then simmer for half an hour. Then, sweeten with 100 gr of honey and let stand for 10 minutes. Filter and sugar again.
Regarding the dosage, 3 to 4 cups per day are indicated.
Good to know about lichen
Today, referring to the virtues of lichens, modern medicine is full of praise. Better yet, she even feeds therapeutic hopes.
However, some thought that no lichen was toxic, harmful or dangerous for health.
Except that there are very bitter species of lichens that cause intestinal disorders.
It even turned out that:
- the toxic principle of Cetraria pinastri would cause the dead by slowing down respiratory rate.
- the use of the sorrel was prohibited in gastronomy because of its toxicity. It was used as food coloring.
- Today the listing of poisonous mushrooms keeps on lying down.
We will retain among others, the lichens of the varieties called Xanthoparmelia chlorochroa, Cetraria pinastri or Letharia vulpina.
NB : When in doubt, it is always useful to have a notice of specialist or your doctor before opting for a treatment made of plants or in the opinion of a pharmacist before use.